Iowa the "Bright Radical Star"

Sep 25, 2014

Iowa gained attention for the Supreme Court decision overturning a ban on same sex marriage. But the ruling was no surprise given the court's history.

Iowa became only the third state in the nation to allow same sex marriage in April, 2009.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Camilla Taylor, Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal and lead council in the Varnum v. Brien case.  She says her team did "extensive research," on Iowa's legal history before deciding it was the best place to file suit on the issue.  Among the considerations was Iowa's long history of expanding and protecting civil rights, partially explained in the timeline below.

Ben Stone, former Executive Director of the ACLU of Iowa and Russ Lovell, Professor of Law Emeritus at Drake Law School talk about some of the reasons Iowa was so far ahead of other states and the federal government on issues of civil rights.

1839 - The Iowa Supreme Court, in its first decision, eviscerated the Fugitive Slave Act in a ruling that allowed Ralph, a slave who had moved to Iowa to work for his freedom in the lead mines, to remain a free man because he had spent four years in free territory.

April, 1868 - The Iowa Supreme Court issues a ruling that effectively ends school segregation in the state, thanks to a suit filed by Alexander Clark. This ruling comes long before the U.S. Supreme Court desegregated schools in the 1954 ruling Brown v. Board of Education.

November, 1868  - Presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant expresses hope that Iowa the "bright Radical star," would be the first state to approve black suffrageThat same month voters approved amendments to the Iowa constitution that eliminated racial designations and allowed Blacks the right to vote.

1869 - District court Judge Francis Springer rules that Arabella Babb Mansfield can be admitted to the Iowa Bar. In 1872 the U.S. Supreme Court will rule against an Illinois woman seeking admission to the Bar.

1873 - The Iowa Supreme Court rules that a steamboat company violated Emma Coger's rights when she was removed from a dining room. This ruling came two years before Congress would enact a law barring discrimination in "public accommodations."

1948 - Edna Griffin leads protests and files suit to desegregate the lunch counter at Katz Drug in downtown Des Moines.  Her action comes more than a decade before similar efforts at lunch counters in Woolworths and other businesses.

See the IPTV website for even more information: